Synergy. Scalability. Disruption. It’s amazing how quickly an idea can go from buzzworthy to buzzword.
Sometimes buzzwords originate because they’re great ideas. But all too often, they become irrelevant once they’re branded a buzzword.
The term “transparency” has struggled with this distinction in the business world for the past few years, but it’s time to clarify the role of transparency and the implications it can have for your company.
What Transparency Really Means.
Transparency is a cool, compact term for a business having genuine, open communication throughout every level of its operations.
For Buffer, it means having an “open salary” policy, meaning it uses a public salary formula for all employees. For my business, it means fostering communication between different teams, between our company and our clients, and even among our clients. But most of all, it means honesty.
Promoting transparency can revolutionize your company’s structure. When my product teams stay connected with my business development teams, they’re able to gear our products toward future goals. And when the business development teams understand what’s going on with our products, they’re better equipped to identify opportunities and leverage upcoming products to maintain long-term relationships.
What’s more,studies have shown that employees are happier working for companies that emphasize transparency than companies with a “great culture.” An office putt-putt course and weekly pizza parties are great morale boosters, but your most talented employees are looking for clear-cut information about how the company operates and where they fit in.
Effective transparency hinges on authentic two-way communication that goes beyond staff meetings, newsletters, and CEO broadcasts. It requires relaying information and gathering feedback.
How to Open Lines of Communication.
Transparency sounds great in theory, but imbedding it in your company can be challenging. Consider these four steps for building transparency within your organization:
1. Identify what transparency means for your company.
Transparency can mean different things depending on your industry and company. Do you have a legal department that could be more communicative? Maybe there’s one department that drowns out everyone else. See where communication breaks down, and create a plan to fix it.
2. Get your team on board.
If your team doesn’t understand what transparency is and why it’s important, it’s not going to work. Outline the benefits of transparency and how it can directly affect each department and employee.
3. Put it into practice.
Don’t just give lip service. Once you “go transparent,” you need to develop strategies for keeping each department informed and connected.
4. Show results consistently.
When sharing information such as financial projects or results, don’t just broadcast the information once. You have to make a consistent effort to make information available to reap the benefits of an open culture.
Your team members aren’t the only ones who value transparency. Promoting communication with your clients — and among them — will promote long-lasting relationships and improve the quality of your work.
At my company, we encourage clients to engage with us on a daily basis. This allows us to create products more closely aligned with their needs and eliminate setbacks and surprises.
Domino’s Pizza has greatly benefited from transparency with its customers. When the chain realized customers hated its pizza, it responded bylaunching a marketing campaign that brazenly showcased its worst criticism. This showed Domino’s was listening to customers’ harsh feedback and generated a ton of buzz around its new recipe.
You don’t have to resort to the Domino’s extreme, but there are a few things you can do to achieve transparency with your clients:
1. Introduce new clients to past clients.
New clients can learn what to expect from your company, and making the introduction demonstrates confidence in your work.
2. Introduce your team.
When clients know the faces behind a project, they’ll feel more connected to your company and involved in the work you’re producing.
3. Send updates.
Keep stakeholders and clients up to speed with news and changes within your organization. This promotes trust and keeps them in the loop.
4. Show the product as you build it.
There’s nothing worse than spending four months building a product and then learning that the client’s priorities have changed. Keep clients engaged through each step so expectations are clear.
Most importantly, don’t hide information from your people or your clients. Don’t ever sugarcoat a situation or overstate your capabilities. If you need more support or resources from a client, let them know exactly what you need and how much. Know what you’re capable of, and deliver it consistently.
Transparency has the power to improve your existing operations, and in some cases,it can save you from going under. So pull back the curtain, and let everyone see what’s going on in the kitchen. Your employees and clients will thank you.
Bobby Emamian is the co-founder and CEO of Prolific Interactive, a strategy-led mobile agency headquartered in Brooklyn, New York, with offices in San Francisco, as well. A former college athlete, Bobby’s competitive nature and mix of technical, business, strategic, and managerial skills account for Prolific’s fast growth in the mobile industry. Bobby and his team have worked with prominent companies, including ModCloth, Thrillist, Rent the Runway, Hewlett-Packard, and the NBA.